Departmental News - Computer Science and Software Engineering - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

UC expert welcomes 'important' digital curriculum


2016-07-14

Computer science education expert University of Canterbury Professor Tim Bell has welcomed the news that New Zealand’s school curriculum is changing to embrace the subject of digital technologies.

Digital technologies will be written into the New Zealand Curriculum and come under the technology umbrella, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced this week.

“The announcement of Digital Technologies as a formal part of the school curriculum from Year One is an exciting milestone for New Zealand, as it means that students in New Zealand will be empowered to better understand the digital world they work in, and not just be mere users of technology,” Prof Bell says.

“This is important for their role as citizens participating in a democracy that is heavily based around digital technologies - including issues like our privacy and security in a digital world – as well as helping them to understand what it is to create new digital technologies.”

A professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering within UC’s College of Engineering, Prof Bell also runs a Computer Science Education Research Group, which has developed resources that are used around the world to support computer science education.

He has also worked with UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development to run courses on teaching Digital Technologies for teachers, including EDEM626 and EDEM665.

One of Prof Bell’s PhD students, Caitlin Duncan, is investigating teaching Computer Science in primary schools as part of her thesis. She and Prof Bell participated in the review last year along with other stakeholders, and put forward a curriculum proposal to the Ministry of Education.

Prof Bell welcomed the curriculum announcement, but is keen to see the roll-out funded adequately for teacher development and to get schools on board to help it succeed.

“The key to success will be providing extensive PLD [Professional Learning and Development] for in-service teachers, and making sure that pre-service teachers get good preparation. Presently, the announcement hasn't shown exactly how this will happen, and we look forward to seeing strong support to empower teachers to deliver the new material,” Prof Bell says.

“This is economically important, because New Zealand needs more capacity to be a nation that exports digits – which is all that software and digital information is. This kind of export can scale easily, has a low environmental impact and is very high value. This is a qualitative change - there are new topics and skills in the new curriculum and teachers will need a lot of help with pedagogy for teaching about digital technology. But we know from our pilot studies that it will be a positive experience for teachers and students alike.”

For further information please contact:
Professor Tim Bell, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Canterbury
Phone: +64 3 364 2987, Ext: 7727, Tim.Bell@canterbury.ac.nz

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